Frank LoMonte Comments on Lawsuits Stemming from Bans on Teaching Critical Race Theory
Frank LoMonte, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Brechner Center for Freedom of Information director, is quoted in “Taking Critical Race Theory Bans to Court” published in Real Clear Politics on Aug. 11.
The article examines the lawsuits stemming from banning the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) in many states. The lawsuits focus on the scope of the First Amendment, whether the bans are too vague, whether racial discrimination played a role in the legislation development and if the bans abridge equal-protection rights.
According to LoMonte, the principle of academic freedom guarantees ”some degree of autonomy for college professors to choose what they teach and how they teach it.” This usually requires deference to the professional judgment of a professor, who is knowledgeable of their subject. If professors are fired for making a ”politically controversial statement in the classroom or writing a politically controversial academic article,’ they would have ‘a good shot of getting their job back.”
“If you are told to teach in a certain manner, then your only response can be, ‘Aye, aye, captain,’” LoMonte said. “Academic freedom does not extend to the K-12 classroom.”
LoMonte disagrees that in a public school setting one can still bring a vagueness claim as a violation of due process rather than as a violation of free speech rights.
“Which is to say, even if teachers have zero First Amendment rights in the classroom, they always have a due process right not to be fired for mysterious reasons that they can’t understand.”
According to LoMonte, while a racial discrimination claim would have to be fact- and evidence-specific, a controversial Arizona court case provides a possible road map.